Nine Signs You May Be a Positive Deviant

Be Positive at Work

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How to know if you are a natural optimistic leader.

It’s easy to spot the office cynic, but can you recognize a positive deviant when you see one? More than a decade ago Margaret and our University of Pennsylvania Master of Applied Positive Psychology colleague Dana Arakawa conducted a research study to see if there was a connection between manager optimism and team performance. Guess what? There is!

Negativity Bias

It’s a lot easier to find fault and criticize. Psychologists call this negativity bias. It takes practice and courage to be positive when you are surrounded by people who are constantly focusing on what’s wrong.

How do you know if you’re a positive deviant? Here are nine clues we have found in coaching hundreds of leaders.

You know you’re a positive deviant when you:

1. Say what’s right about a new idea after a co-worker shoots it down, rather than remaining silent.

2. Speak up when you hear someone speaking down to another.

3. Interrupt a colleague who is ruminating over a mistake and tell her to celebrate her mistake because she learned something new.

4. Don’t assume when a friend loses his job that it’s a bad thing.

5. Spend more time giving kudos than criticism.

6. Take time off from work to become even more productive.

7. Focus more on your strengths than your weaknesses.

8. Listen to your intuition and hire the employee with the right attitude rather than the right skill set.

9. Ask people what they aspire to be, not just what they want to do.

We’ve only scratched the surface

Let’s keep adding to this list. What comes to mind when you hear the term positive deviant? Please visit Live Happy and Profit from the Positive on Facebook to share your ideas!

MARGARET H. GREENBERG and Senia Maymin, Ph.D., MAPP, are organizational consultants and executive coaches whose talks at companies like Google, Intel and VMWare inspire leaders around the world. Their best-selling book, Profit from the Positive, is now available in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Visit to learn more about becoming a positive deviant in their fall Profit from the Positive Certificate Program. Use code LiveHappy2018 and receive a 20 percent discount.  


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